Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Letter from a Local Civil War Soldier

The Ditzler brothers came to Chicago in 1844 from the east via the Great Lakes. Jonathon Ditzler settled in Naperville where he married and raised his family. His daughter Hannah was a long-time teacher at the Naperville Academy as well as a librarian. Son Eli became a prosperous merchant in Hinsdale after being lucky enough to return from the Civil War. The following is a letter Eli wrote to his sister Hannah after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, Penn. July 1

Dear Sister-
Hoping that I may get a chance to mail a letter I will drop you a line--

Westminster, Md. July 3

The above lines I wrote at the place dated, but these miserable Rebels never let us to ourselves. The morning of July 1, our Co. was on picket. All was quiet, so I thought I would write. Had just commenced when the picket on post reported the enemy advancing. We mounted and went out to the line. Waited the approach of the Rebels. When they came nigh enough we fired and fell back a ways. Still they advanced -- came in strong force. Our Cav. Div. was drawn up in line of battle and received them. We held them at bay until one Inf. came up. A general battle ensued and was raging all day long.

The enemy had all Inf., and, of course, we Cav. could do little. some of us dismounted and took it infantry style. I was on foot and kept behind fences and trees and fired.

The battle raged all that day as well as yesterday and today. A most terrible battle. Our horses had nothing to eat in four days, so our Div. came to this place yesterday. Are in camp here- once again in America, as the boys say. How different from Va. The people all are Union. As we came along up from the Potomac, each town we passed through had flags flying and citizens crowding the streets. The ladies waved their hankerchiefs, and the air was rent with cheer after cheer. Made me feel homesick to see how happy free people were.

As we advanced on Gettysburg, the Rebels fell back and, oh, how glad the people were! On street corners fair misses collected and sang "Star Spangled Banner" for us as we passed, and there were roaring cheers.

We went in camp a little beyond town and I then went back in town to buy little articles Ladies on the streets with baskets filled would give us all the pies, cakes, and goodies we wanted. I stopped at a house where seminary girls boarded. They gave me a bouquet and sang songs to the accompaniment of the piano -- all for my benefit, dirty and rough as I was. How sweet it sounded!

The tears of joy and gladness of the people of Gettysburg have suddenly turned into tears of sadness. Our lines had to fall back to this side of town, and the Rebs were on the other, so the city was in between two fires. Some of the houses were burned and demolished. The women in town took the wounded in their houses and took care of them. Children walked the streets with pails of water and gave to the boys. This evening I heard that our men drove the Rebs; took lots of artillery and many prisoners. Our loss in officers is heavy and severe.

I am well and in good spirits. Mother do not trouble yourself. Goodbye,

Love, Eli.'

No comments:

Post a Comment